At several speaking engagements recently I have had cause to shake, quite literally, hundreds of hands. In situations like this I know to expect a variety of styles but what has taken me by surprise is the apparent inattention by the giver as to how their handshake will be interpreted.
There is a general rule that it takes 10 seconds for someone to assess us and form a first impression so it is best to make sure it’s a good one and we seem to remember this when it comes to our dress and outward appearance. However, how many times have you stopped to consider what your handshake say’s about you?
The ones I dislike intensely are the sweaty hands. It may be a sign of extreme nervousness on the part of the giver but to me it intimates that no consideration has been given to my comfort or sense of ease as the recipient. An unbidden flash of all sorts of scenarios as to why their hand may be damp immediately looms in my mind’s eye and none of them are particularly pleasant. Even as someone whose hands do not overly sweat I always make sure to surreptitiously wipe my hands down my clothing so I can present a clean dry hand to my recipient.
The limp handshake is often proffered at a downwards angle. Again, if I have time to think about it afterwards I appreciate that this is often down to nervousness or the giver being unsure of themselves, however the immediate impression is already formed. The limp handshake is quite difficult to grip as my hand naturally slides towards the fingertips and then away. An invitation for me to physically turn away from the giver as the indication I get is that they are not interested in communicating further. Think of it in the same way as a limp dishrag – why would you not want to let go as quickly as possible and then forget it ever happened.
A firm handshake (not so hard it hurts the recipient) always makes a pleasant change. These days I would guess they happen about 10% of the time so it always makes me look up and pay attention to the giver. The immediate impression is good and instinctively I am ready to take in the rest of the givers appearance and what they have to say.
I was lucky enough to have a mentor when I first started work as an office junior who taught me the basics of business etiquette in one morning. It was a session I have never forgotten in the ensuing years. Perhaps an idea that should be considered for reintroduction?